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Event Report: 'Don't see him with 1962 lens' (includes video and audio)

Video: The Making of Independent India and V.K. Krishna Menon Audio : 01:46:02 Minutes : 1.The Making of Independent India and V.K. Krishna Menon.mp3   Krishna Menon’s contributions were remarkable, says Jairam Ramesh. Former Defence Minister V.K. Krishna Menon was often "seen with the lens of 1962" [war with China], while there was more to him before 1946 and during the 1950s, said senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh here on Tuesday. Menon’s contributions in the drafting of the Constitution before 1946 and his actions during the 1950s were remarkable. During a public discussion on 'The Making of Independent India and V.K. Krishna Menon' organised by The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy at the Music Academy, Mr. Ramesh recalled incidents from Menon’s life since his college days until his death to capture various phases — both personal and political. In his conversation with former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Mr. Ramesh said it was Menon, who first came up with the idea of 'Make in India'. When India had options from the United States of America and the United Kingdom from whom it had to purchase fighter aircraft, he wanted the purchase to be from a country that allowed eventual manufacturing of aircraft in India. "That was how fighter jet MiG-21 came to be manufactured in India," pointed out Mr. Ramesh, who authored  A Chequered Brilliance: The Many Lives of V.K. Krishna Menon . The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) came about during Menon’s tenure. Though Menon enjoyed proximity with then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the latter too believed in the former's judgment, the Council of Ministers did not approve of Menon’s ideas, Mr. Ramesh pointed out. Even a few years before the war with China, Menon was for a settlement with the neighbouring country, but did not enjoy the support from the Cabinet, opposition and the media. "But, eventually Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had in 2003 put in place a boundary talk mechanism with China," Mr. Ramesh said. Recalling an incident in the United Nations, Mr. Gandhi said when the Foreign Minister of Pakistan repeatedly insisted on a plebiscite in Kashmir, a witty Menon had asked whether Pakistan had seen a ballot box recently. Notwithstanding the criticism that he was a leftist, Mr. Ramesh said he was "not at all a communist" but supported the Communist Party of Great Britain only because it supported full freedom for India. Mr. Ramesh said Menon was against creating Kerala from the then Madras Presidency, arguing with Nehru it would become a "bastion of communists." Madras connection President of All India Home Rule League Annie Besant discovered the talent in him during his days in then Madras when he went to the Presidency College. Even after his resignation in December 1962, it was Madras which hosted him. At a public meeting on the Marina beach front, noted lyricist Kannadasan lauded the qualities of Menon, Mr. Gandhi recalled. Source:  The Hindu , January 15, 2020 .

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Event Report: ‘Ayushman Bharat has not done anything to prevent corruption’ (includes video and audio)

Video: Healers or Predators? Healthcare Corruption in India   Audio : 02:11:24 Minutes Healers or Predators? Healthcare Corruption in India.mp3 Healthcare expenses can be lowered by eliminating corruption, say experts. Former Union Health Secretary Keshav Desiraju said on Monday that the designers of the Ayushman Bharat scheme have not done anything to prevention corruption from taking place. “It’s a fairly-well conceived programme. However, the way in which it is structured does nothing towards addressing the specific points at which corruption has been known to occur,” he said. Mr. Desiraju was speaking at a discussion organised by The Hindu Centre and the Oxford University Press at The Music Academy. The discussion was moderated by N. Ram, chairman of The Hindu Publishing Group; Mr. Desiraju spoke on  Healers or Predators? Healthcare Corruption in India , a book he edited with Samiran Nundy. “We still have a system where everything depends on a limited number of people providing a scarce resource. All the corruption that we see in healthcare comes from the fact that a limited number of people need to provide an essential service to a vast population. As long as this imbalance continues, that corruption situation will continue,” said Mr. Desiraju. Nephrologist and Padma Bhushan awardee M.K. Mani, a contributor to the book, was critical of the various insurance programmes started by State and Central governments. He said that government-run facilities would improve if those who avail of government funds are forced to use only government hospitals. “The government has abdicated its responsibility to maintain a centre of excellence for looking after the care of people. Maybe the All India Institute [of Medical Sciences] is an exception, but I can tell you definitely, that as far as this State [Tamil Nadu] is concerned, the government hospitals are no longer the leaders,” he said. Dr. Nundy, emeritus consultant at New Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and one of the editors of the book, said 25% of healthcare expenses can be lowered by eliminating corruption. “For instance, the MRI person on PUSA Road near Ganga Ram Hospital, where I work, gives a ₹3,000 kickback to doctors who refer patients,” he said. Dr. George Thomas of the St. Isabel’s Hospital in Chennai, who contributed to the book, said that Indian society had failed to protect doctors in the public sector. “Corruption is inset when you have two systems: a private system for the well-off and a public one for the poor. The poor doctors who look after the poor will be treated poorly, will be looked down upon and every doctor will try to be in Apollo,” he said. While summarising the book’s arguments for his audience, Mr. Ram said that its title provoked thought. “The question is whether corruption in the healthcare system has been normalised or whether it is a pathological condition. The book tends to lean to the view that it has become normalised and that it has become the rule rather than the exception,” he said. Source:  The Hindu , October 2, 2018 .

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Event Report: 'Not holding civic polls is a violation of the Constitution' (includes video and audio)

Video: Private Advice, Public Interest: Democracy and India's Permanent Executive   Audio : 01:38:34 Minutes Private Advice, Public Interest Democracy and India’s Permanent Executive.MP3 Congress leader criticises the idea of simultaneous elections Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member Jairam Ramesh on Friday slammed the Tamil Nadu government for not holding local body elections. Mr. Ramesh said it was a violation of Article 243 of the Constitution. “I was surprised. All States, including Bihar and UP and other States, which are poor, have elections once in five years. Which is what the Constitution provides for. But Tamil Nadu is the only State where elections to panchayats and nagar palikas have not been held for seven years. This is unacceptable in a democracy,” he said. The former Union Minister of Rural Development was in conversation with former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi at the Kasturi Srinivasan Hall of the Music Academy. Their discussion was on ‘Private Advice, Public Interest: Democracy and India’s Permanent Executive’ and Mr. Ramesh's latest book, ‘Intertwined Lives: P.N. Haksar and Indira Gandhi’. The event was organised by The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy. Pointing out that elections were the only way for the citizens to make themselves heard in India, Mr. Ramesh, a senior visiting fellow at The Hindu Centre, also objected to holding simultaneous elections. “By supporting one election, one nation, you are denying yourself the ability to enforce some accountability on the executive. It is the debacle in successive elections in the last 12 months that made the current Prime Minister more aware of the concerns of farmers, the unemployed, the rural landless labour. If you had had one nation, one election to elect somebody, then you have no opportunity whatsoever of making your voice heard for the next five years,” he said. Mr. Ramesh said that a Congress government would never roll back bank nationalisation, spearheaded by Indira Gandhi and her principal secretary P.N. Haksar. Bank denationalisation “Never. Bank denationalisation, the Congress party will never do.....It should not do. The denationalisation of banks is a recipe for economic disaster,” he said. “We have to find a way to depoliticise appointment to banks. We must make the boards of public sector banks more professional and accountable. However, the experience with ICICI Bank shows that they are subject to the same pressures. So, this public-private sector debate in banks is a non-issue, as far as I am concerned,” Mr. Ramesh added. In his opening remarks, Mr. Gandhi said the running theme of the book was loyalty: Mr. Haksar’s allegiance to the Prime Minister's position as well as Mrs. Gandhi. “Monarchs everywhere have had the boon of counsellors and the bane of courtiers....Counsellors are needed leaders who do not acknowledge their need. If counsellors give good advice, leaders may take it; sometimes not. They would not appear to be taking it; they would like to appear that they do not need any counsel,” said Mr. Gandhi. N. Ravi, publisher of  The Hindu , quoted extensively from the book to talk about Mr. Haksar's many qualities. “The book is a celebration of the life and times of P.K. Haksar. It also raises questions that are very relevant to our present day. One question that arises is how a civil servant gained such power, influence and standing even if it were all for the good.....Is it at all possible for another super-civil servant to emerge? Is it even desirable? For, when civil servants have their codes and service rules, they lack a measure of democratic accountability,” said Mr. Ravi. Source:  The Hindu , July 14, 2018 .

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Cooperative and Competitive Federalism to Foster Reform: The Case of the Power Sector (Video, Audio, and Full Text)

The video, audio, and full text of the lecture, Cooperative and Competitive Federalism to Foster Reform: The Case of the Power Sector, deilvered by th

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Event report: Indira Gandhi was a reluctant politician: Jairam Ramesh (Video and Audio)

  Audio: Green Policies and the Legacy of Indira Gandhi     Video: Green Policies and the Legacy of Indira Gandhi   ‘She made the environment matter, while balancing her responsibilities as PM’ Indira Gandhi was a “reluctant politician”, unhappily stuck in politics, a chakravyuh that one could choose to enter but could not get out of.This was the verdict given by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on the life of the former Prime Minister, whose birth centenary falls this year. The former Environment Minister spoke about Mrs. Gandhi’s environmental legacy as part of a discussion organised by The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy here, on Thursday. Moderated by environmentalist Nanditha Krishna, currently a professor at the University of Madras, the discussion was based on Mr. Ramesh’s recently released biography, Indira Gandhi: A Life in Nature . Mr. Ramesh said most biographies on Mrs. Gandhi’s life fell into one of the two camps — one that tended to see her as Goddess Durga in the political arena, taking on vicious and powerful male leaders such as Richard Nixon, or the one that vilified her as the authoritarian leader who imposed the Emergency and violated civil rights. “Neither of the two camps bothered to ask who the real Indira Gandhi is. It was clear to me when I became Environment Minister that the entire legacy of environmental governance in India today is owed to her,” the author said. Tactical politics Given the politics over cow slaughter raging in present-day India, Mr. Ramesh gave an example of how Mrs. Gandhi prolonged politically tricky matters by setting up committees and commissioning studies. In 1966, when an anti-cow slaughter agitation aimed at the Congress went out of hand, Mrs. Gandhi set up a high-powered committee to contemplate on a national law on cow slaughter, which included M.S. Golwalkar of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh as a member. “The committee met for 12 years and submitted no report, and the matter died a natural death when Morarji Desai as PM disbanded it finally,” Mr. Ramesh said. He also challenged the popular view that Mrs. Gandhi was authoritarian by referring to how Congress Ministers she had hand-picked herself resisted her dictum, and several Congress CMs such as V.P. Naik, resisted her authority. N. Ram, Chairman of Kasturi and Sons Ltd., and N. Ravi, Director of Kasturi & Sons Ltd., participated. Also Read : Indira Gandhi, the environmentalist Source: The Hindu Related Link: Ramesh, J. 2020 . Lecture: A Prime Minister and a Naturalist , The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, March 5.

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Press Release: Round Table by The Hindu Centre and UNICEF, Chennai, Proposes Social Spaces for Children

Chennai, September 21, 2017 : The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy and UNICEF, Chennai, organised a Round Table consultation of experts, practitioners, policy makers, journalists, and NGOs, on “Public Policy and the Child in Tamil Nadu”. The aim of the Round Table consultations was to discuss and deliberate on how to further state interventions to ensure that Tamil Nadu remains a national leader in providing opportunities for the child, while continuously benchmarking itself against global standards. The deliberations pointed to the way ahead, conceptually and operationally, and called for updating policies relevant for the child, periodic reviews of status and progress vis-à-vis global benchmarks. It also indicated areas where new policies will enable the State to better cater to the needs of every child, including the vulnerable. Specific gaps were identified, new steps recommended, and policy suggestions made, based on commissioned papers that were presented and discussed at the Round Table held in early September (September 2, 2017). Social Spaces for the Child in Tamil Nadu The Round Table proposed the introduction of the concept of “Social Spaces for the Child” in Tamil Nadu’s policy discourse. Social space has a geographical, a cultural, and a relational dimension, the key determinants being age, sex, caste, and class. Though personal and influenced by psycho-social factors, social spaces can be directed by policy, planning, and good governance. In managing the exponential urbanisation, including promoting “smart cities”, governments and local bodies can draw upon and customise available guidelines to ensure child-friendly urban areas, infrastructure, and institutions, in consultation with civil society and citizen groups, including children. The role of the family, beyond providing food and shelter, needs attention in terms of the physical and psychological protection for the child. Alcoholism, aggression, physical and psychological abuse, and neglect often trigger emotional and mental health problems, low self-esteem, and lack of confidence among children. All families do not have all necessary long-term strengths to ensure provisioning of holistic positive development of children. The State and its policies should play their role in supporting families and help them rise above negative coping strategies. Priority Areas Tamil Nadu maintains a leading position in India in social sector expenditure, which is above all comparable States. With competition and growing demands for allocation from other sub-sectors, the proportionate share of expenditure on health and education sub-sectors recorded a decline over the past three decades. There has been a plateauing of some key metrics in the recent past. Tamil Nadu’s demographic dividend is an important justification to prioritise spending on children. A note of caution was also raised on dependency ratio, indicating that Tamil Nadu, as in the case of some European countries, would have to address issues relating to a greying population. With regard to fiscal space, while the share of resources devolved from the Union Government to Tamil Nadu has been steadily coming down, the State currently devolves 10 per cent of its own revenues to its local bodies, which is among the highest in India. The constraint was more in the nature of functioning than in funding. The functional constraints were also identified as those that arise from hierarchical issues: village panchayats, social structures, school management committees, parent teacher associations, and similar groupings. It was also noted that there was a direct coincidence if not causation between schools that were in demand and well-functioning State-run schools. There are gaps in maintaining the quality of education and the related infrastructure provisions to schools and hostels run by the various departments such as School Education, Adi-Dravidar Welfare, the Backward Classes Welfare, and the Forest Department. On children in informal housing (slum), coastal areas, and migrant pockets, the discussion identified some lacunae in the policy-making process, inconsistencies in documentation, and the knowledge gaps that are impediments to successful policy interventions. The overarching constraint with regard to the disabled child, which is equally applicable to other segments, was the non-availability of child-specific data for the State. In addition, the People with Disabilities Act calls upon the State to provide transport to the disabled child to travel to school. Proactive provision of transport to school for children with disabilities would improve general access as well through a reverse inclusion process. Child labour is a last-mile issue in Tamil Nadu but needs attention. Presently, almost all children go to school but some also work during non-school hours. This considerably reduces time for leisure and play for such children. The recent amendment to the Child Labour Act permitting work in family businesses after school-hours is regressive as it opens up possibilities of the law being circumvented by creating a grey area, and thereby tacitly allowing child employment in the unorganised and home-based sectors. Child labour is also a second-generation issue in Tamil Nadu and increasing number of children who are secondary school dropouts (late adolescent children in 15-18 age group) are joining the work force without adequate legal protection and social security that needs to be addressed. Key Policy-related Recommendations There was consensus on the following points to support the Tamil Nadu government’s efforts in policy articulation: I. The State Government should expedite the process of formulation of a multi-dimensional Child Policy for Tamil Nadu, addressing the several deprivations that confront the child in manifest and subtle forms. II. Appropriate agencies in the Government of Tamil Nadu should undertake a systematic and critical review of key existing schemes from a child’s lens for recalibration, bringing in innovations that can improve quality of delivery and efficiency of expenditure and further introduce new initiatives where necessary, that expand the range of child development. III. As policies, schemes and initiatives impacting a child’s welfare and development are cross-Departmental responsibilities, an appropriate State-level platform, headed at a suitably high level to provide visible political and administrative leadership for regular monitoring and direction, needs to be established. IV. Wherever feasible, platforms could be facilitated for children to express their views on policies that have a bearing on them. V. Tamil Nadu should take the lead in creating social spaces for the child, addressing both public and private spaces. It should not be restricted to maintenance of child-friendly public places, but ensure the creation of spaces where every child is able to learn, play, grow, and develop to maximum potential in an uninhibited manner. VI. The non-homogenous nature of children should be recognised and need-specific policies should be drawn to address the disadvantaged, the vulnerable, and the marginalised child. VII. Social sector expenditure should be reprioritised to provide for greater allocative and operational efficiency in areas that have a direct bearing on shaping a child’s survival, development, protection, and participation. Read: The Hindu , 2017 . " Create social space for children, say experts ", September 23. Background Note on " Public Policy and the Child in Tamil Nadu: Papers presented at a Round Table Discussion " can be accessed here .